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Lessons learned, painfully, in Afghanistan after 20-year war

US troops patrolled in Kunar Province in December 2009. Then-president Barack Obama vowed on Dec. 10 of that year that Afghanistan would not become a "permanent protectorate" of the United States as he defended his decision to begin withdrawing US forces in July 2011.TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP via Getty Images

Any exit of US troops was going to be messy

Re “Two years on, the US pullout from Afghanistan looks worse than ever” by Jeff Jacoby (Opinion, Aug. 31): Notwithstanding Jeff Jacoby’s view of how the US exit from Afghanistan was conducted, most Americans supported withdrawing our troops.

The war in Afghanistan was started after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but eventually it became a nation-building effort rather than a “find Bin Laden” mission. We eventually found and killed Osama Bin Laden (in Pakistan), which was good. But nation-building in Afghanistan has failed over and over.

Afghans don’t welcome the involvement of the United States (or Russia, for that matter). Twenty years was too long to let our soldiers die for Afghan nation-building. We cannot police the world, especially when the country does not want the support.


Any exit was going to be messy, and it was. That is a shame, but I and many others support our having gotten out. Enough blood and enough money.

John Greichen Jr.

Newport, R.I.

White House apparatus polishes the mistakes to a blinding sheen

Presidents come and go, with much hoopla, but the bureaucracy stays put. Democrats have the presidency and the apparatus that goes with it. President Biden’s chosen people in the Cabinet and press office know to polish his mistakes, or those of others that might embarrass him, to such a sheen that the sparkle blinds the poorly informed. Republicans are no more honest when they occupy the White House.

From enemy balloons practically doing figure-eights over Montana missile bases to debacles like the Afghanistan skedaddle, administration apparatchiks will sweep the detritus away by putting makeup on the donkey. Hey, this is the Beltway stage and everyone is role-playing by rote, the public be damned.

Paul Bloustein


A 20-year failed war had to end

I strongly disagree with Jeff Jacoby’s characterization of the US pullout of Afghanistan after a 20-year failed war in that country. Yes, it was tragic that a suicide bombing killed 13 US service members and 170 Afghan citizens. However, what Jacoby calls a massacre might better describe the nearly 2,500 US troops killed during this war, the more than 150,000 Afghan soldiers and citizens killed by armed forces, and the more than $2.3 trillion the United States has paid to wage the fight.


Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump had each promised they would withdraw from the war in Afghanistan, but neither succeeded. “Twenty years of progress and rising equality” in that country, writes Jacoby — really? Afghanistan was never going to be a democracy. Women and children have been mistreated there for centuries, and the United States, sadly, cannot change that.

Leaving wars has always been messy (see Hanoi 1973). We will hope to never have to leave a war zone again in our lifetimes.

Kip Hargreaves